After David Letterman and Jay Leno retired from late night television, I thought the end had come for quality late night talk shows. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by three of the four new late night hosts. Jimmy Fallon with his boyish charm, sappy games, and decent interview skills emerged as my favorite, but to their credit Jimmy Kimmel and Steven Colbert are close on his heels. The only miscast has been Seth Myers. Poor Seth can’t seem to shake himself free of his old Saturday Night Live routines. His show comes across as a SNL rerun, especially the first half of the show when his skits are often little more than SNL rip-offs down to the writing style and intonation of the delivery.
Up until a week ago, my order of preference for watching late night television was . . . .
- Jimmy Fallon: Fallon is a multi-talented host who comes across as extremely likeable. He is the best interviewer of the four. His biggest flaw is he plays it too safe, and has hit on a formula that with time is likely to grow old. His house band, The Roots, is by far the best late night band on television;
- Jimmy Kimmel: Like Fallon, Kimmel comes across as approachable and likeable, which makes him a perfect late night host. His video challenges are fast becoming legendary although at times controversial. Unlike Fallon, he does not always play it safe. He has been known to joust in murky waters with needle tongued jabs at politicians, but almost always with a mischievous little boy smirk on his face;
- Steven Colbert: Unlike Fallon and Kimmel, Colbert’s commentary can sometimes be down in the dirt mean. He is not above outright attacks against those in the public he personally finds despicable and in need of having their faces rubbed in the mud. Although I enjoy watching Colbert, he can sometimes go too far and pummel his audience with his personal politics. However, there is no denying he is awfully good, especially when he is so often “point on” with his views; and
- Seth Myers: Seth Myers is by far the weakest of the four hosts. His interviews are extremely thin, and as an added distraction every interview is saturated with his silly school girl giggles. Myer’s biggest handicap is he can’t seem to shake Saturday Night Live from his system. That is unfortunate since it is obvious the man has standalone talent.
However, that was my list several days ago. Recently something happened that made me rethink my rank order. No, Seth Myers was not fired. Actually, Seth has shown some improvement, or maybe he is growing on me. Lately, he seems to be wittier and more in tune to with his subject matter. He is no longer simply reading jokes someone wrote for him, he is delivering his lines with authority and an underlying message that is not only funny but scary as hell. He is still a little too much SNL, but he is growing.
However, Seth Meyer’s improvement did not cause me to rethink my list. Jimmy Kimmel’s heart-felt message about the medical problems faced by his new born son was the catalyst behind rethinking the list. Although critics, primarily Republicans, screamed he used his son to make a liberal political statement about Obamacare, nothing could be further from the truth. It takes courage to put potential harm to your ratings aside and lay yourself open like Jimmy Kimmel did a few days ago on his show. He spoke from his heart, and spoke a message that any father – any human being – can understand. He was not speaking for The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and trying to sway political winds in favor of the embattled healthcare act! He was not taking a political stand! Jimmy Kimmel was speaking with the heart and voice of a father and with the passion of a human being pleading for all human beings to have compassion for those less fortunate. He said no parent should have to watch their child die because the parent cannot afford to save their child’s life. If that plea was political, in the name of God on High, we desperately need more such politics!
Jimmy Kimmel spoke from the heart. Politics speaks from the pocketbook. Jimmy Kimmel did not have to worry about paying for his son’s operation; his pockets are deep. His plea was for those without deep pockets. His tears were not only for his son, but for the realization that all children are not as privileged as his child. His heart was breaking for the parents who without proper health care might have no choice but to watch their child die. In the greatest most affluent nation on earth the health of a child – the life or death of a child – should not depend on the wealth or lack of wealth of the parents or guardians. Thank you, Mr. Kimmel, for having the courage to publicly show your humanity. You, Sir, are my new number one late night host!
©Jack Linton, May 9, 2017